About this website

This website documents a sadly now defunct cycling club, the Northwood Wheelers. My father, David Saunders, was a member of the Northwood Wheelers from the late 1940s through to 1955, when adult life "distracted" him from cycling. A large part of this site consists of his cycling diaries (Open Roads) written at that time, and which he has annotated with photographs and editorial comments. You can reach this material via the menu at the top of the website.

Since the original incarnation of these web pages a couple of years ago, I have had emails and phone calls from former members of the Northwood Wheelers. I hope that this new version will encourage others to do the same. 

The tales of cycling presented here are the reason I took up cycling myself, albeit rather late in life (I too got diverted by student life). Not for me the motivation of the exploits of professional cyclists - rather, I was fired by the exploits of my father and his cycling pals, particularly his cycle tour to Scotland with Brian at the tender age of 16, the infamous Cheddar Gorge expedition, and possibly the best example of why you need to pay attention to the chain tension on a fixed gear bike.


Robert Saunders December 2008

Photo Gallery

The cover is very similar to that of issue 17 - it has the same Patterson picture, though the title font is slightly more elegant. The same two adverts are present before the main text of the Newsletter.

Page 1 

Editorial. This month, Bob is hugely proud of the achievements of Roger Bannister in being the first to break the four minute mile. This was on 6th May 1954, so the May issue of the magazine can’t have been out until well into May! Unfortunately the English football teams got beaten by their Yugoslavian counterparts. (continued page 2)

Page 2

From a discussion of other sports, Bob moves on to the thorny issue of club spirit, and reflects on a a letter printed on page 7 of the issue. Essentially, Bob’s observation is that clubs such as the Northwood Wheelers can funtion well only when the members cooperate and interact fully.


A new member is welcomed to the club (another is welcomed on page 3)

Page 3

Racing Results

Club ’25’ 16th May 1954. Colin Turner won with 1:05:04, Brian Major a very close 2nd.

Club ‘100’ 23rd May 1954. Six started, three finished. Of those, the winner was David Saunders (referred to a the Club’s promising 100 miler) in 4:50:08. It was wet and cold - there’s an account by the winner in Open Roads, May 1954.

Pages 4-7

One Thing Leads to Another, by K. R. Meredith

Seems begin as a reminiscence of riding for the Buckshee Wheelers (there’s a bit on this page (you need to scroll down a fair bit) about the Buckshee Wheelers, including this:

The man behind the Buckshee Wheelers was Johnnie Walker, a member of the Sheffield Central and Oval CC who was posted to Cairo in October 1939 as a sergeant in General Staff Intelligence. Like many servicemen he had left his bike back in the UK but managed to buy one in Egypt that he rode around Cairo when not on duty. 

The upshot was that he met other cyclists in the area and together they advertised in the Egyptian Mail that they had a spare bike which servicemen could use when on leave.  This resulted in some 180 letters from personnel wishing to go cycling again. Johnnie organised a cyclist reunion in Cairo which was attended by over a hundred  military men keen to experience the fellowship of other cyclists' company.

Thus was formed the Fraternity of the Buckshee Wheelers very soon known as just The Buckshee Wheelers.  Buckshee was derived from baksheesh, an Arabic word denoting 'free or something for nothing'.  Now they had a club, hundreds of potential members but only four bikes so Johnnie appealed to the cycle trade back home in the UK who, to their amazement, shipped out 100 new bikes loaded onto three army lorries.

Now the club was established with machines they set about organising their first race in October 1941.  It was a 25-mile time trial starting beneath the pyramids and the winner was presented with the 'Bully Beef Trophy', made by another soldier from a silver-plated bully-beef tin hammered into the shape of a pyramid and mounted on a wooden plinth. The club also ran regular club runs of up to 100 miles over the desert roads. The Bully Beef Trophy continued to be a success for several years until in 1944 the club decided to organise a massed-start road race on the island of Ghezira where several hundred police obligingly closed the roads for the event! An Egyptian, Faris Bey Sarafin, donated a magnificent 50 guinea cup for the event which had an entry of 120 riders.

After a bit, the story shifts to a reminiscence of a canoeing trip that encountered several difficulties, culminating in rescue.

From a cycling perspective, however, does the opening sequence of time trialling on the Suez Canal Road reflect the author’s National Service?

Page 7

This is the letter referred to in Bob Harvey’s editorial, and which seems to indicate the Club is ina  bit of a sticky patch and is losing a sense of camaraderie and purpose. Continues page 8.

Page 8

Preview of the Club ‘100’. But weren’t the results on page 3? 

Racing Secretary D. Saunders has a snippet about Scotsmen, porridge and sporrans. 

Pages 9-10

Club Programme June 6th to July 18th

This is the runs list for the Sunday runs and others. It includes some race dates too.

Thes pages were back to back, and perforated for easy removal for reference.

Page 11

Two more sportraits - Boff Empson (apparently despite being a hard-working club member, Boff always finds an excuse not to do any cycling, and is noted for his abilities to sleep anywhere) and Texas Turner. Are Texas Turner and Colin Turner one and the same?

Page 12

Another contribution by R. Meredith: The Chilterns Are Ours….it’s a nice little reflection on the countryside the Northwood Wheelers could call their patch.

Northwood Wheelers History

An update on the history of the Northwood Wheelers, and some personal reminiscences, by Colin Turner via email 22/12/13.

In late 1947 Tom Simpson, Gordon (Boff - short for boffin) Empson, my brother Roy & myself were asked to assist with running the cycling section of The Northwood Boy’s Club. I can’t remember if any others were involved at this time. None of us had any experience of running a club, as none of us had ever been a member of a cycling club before. There were so many restrictions placed on what we could do that it soon became impossible to operate within the Boy’s Club. A rather acrimonious break from the Boy’s Club ensued, and in 1948 we formed the Northwood Wheelers.

We soon came to the notice of a local resident, Mr. Fred Reynolds. Fred was a council member of the Road Time Trials Council, the then governing body of time trials in the UK. He helped us get the club on a proper footing. Jack Sharp was another who helped us in the early days - he later became president.

My memories of the early days are rather vague as unlike David I did not keep a diary. Tom Simpson worked with Stan Boyes, a cyclist/tricyclist of long standing. In my memories of the club he was always there, so I am sure got involved at an early stage.

I have my Youth Hostel Association membership card for 1948 and it records eight overnight away rides in that year. Most of those would have been club runs. The one that stands out is Cleeve Hill near Cheltenham, in November - this run subsequently became a regular on the weekend nearest the 5th November.

My first record of racing activity is in June 1949 when I entered the Uxbridge Wheelers 25 on 19th June, I recorded a time of 1.7.55. My first record of a club event is a 25 on the Amersham course on 26.3.50, qhich was won by Alan Browne in 1.6.42. Northwood Wheelers club events that I entered in 1950 were 4 x 25 miles, 2 x 50 miles. 1x 100 miles. We also took part in 4 x 25 mile interclub events against other local clubs. My racing records stop in 1954, by this time I was married with 1 child and finding it difficult to find the time to get fit.

Another early event that we took part in was the Brentwood Road Club’s 100 mile utility event on 6.2.49. There were a multitude of classes from which one could chose, from a Ladies 100 in 9 hours to a double gents tandem in 6hr. 30min. Tom & I entered double gents tandem. A few other club members entered solo in eight hours. It was a hard ride, cold, foggy near the sea at Malden and a niggling cold breeze all day. Tom and I were ahead of schedule so we waited near the finish. Cold and shivering, we had a 3 minute window 6.30 to 6.33 to be classified, we went in and recorded a time of 6. 27 so no certificate!  

Colin noted he had copies of the club magazine from No.2 to No.14 - these form part of the collection of scans listed above.